Underneath a Microsoft Team there is a SharePoint site which stores the Team’s data. You can think of Teams as a veneer on a SharePoint site, or ‘edited highlights’ of it. But the key thing is that Teams thinks it’s in charge. It created the SharePoint site, and it wants to manage what happens there. Editing the site behind a Team is the electronic equivalent of breaking into someone’s house and moving things around while they’re asleep. And hoping that they don’t notice what you’ve done when they wake up. If they do see what’s happened you can be sure they’re not going to be happy about it.
We understand that it can be very tempting to consider bypassing the Team and going straight to SharePoint to make changes. All the data is there. It’s just sooo accessible. There are even lots of people out there telling you precisely how to do make changes there, and encouraging you to try (probably while secretly giggling: they know what can happen).
Our advice is simple: resist the temptation. Be strong.
Since we have had another support ticket today from someone who broke their Team, let’s go over some of the reasons behind our well-trodden warning once more.
Because Teams is a layer on top of SharePoint, changes at the back-end mean that Teams doesn’t necessarily see what it’s expecting. It’s a big ask for error-correcting code within Teams to understand every possible back-end change, correct for it, and display your content as if nothing had happened. It’s nice that you have so much confidence in the product! You might be fortunate and make changes that Teams doesn’t notice. But that’s a big risk to take with your data. If Teams does notice – and there’s every chance it will – you should be prepared that it will have broken the relationship between Teams and SharePoint entirely. Bear in mind too that Teams is constantly being improved, patched, and updated. A change that Teams copes with today may be one that breaks your site tomorrow: keep in mind that Teams thinks that it owns and manages the site storing its data.
Let’s take one simple example – today’s real-world one – someone had renamed the site and the home page of a Teams SharePoint site. Teams is looking for the original unaltered address – Teams created the site, thinks it’s in charge of it, and hasn’t been informed of any changes. Suddenly it finds a coup has taken place! The directions it’s following lead nowhere. Your site is now broken.
Teams does what it can to interpret and correct for this but it’s doomed to fail. Even reverting your changes is not guaranteed to fix things, since it can be difficult to precisely undo every change completely. So the solution is to rescue what you can from SharePoint, delete the broken Team, and start again with a new Team that isn’t estranged from its home site.
SharePoint behind Teams: leave it alone; it should only be managed by the Teams app.
SharePoint on premises: going out of support imminently; please move your content.
SharePoint online: this is the one you can make changes to. 🙂